A piece of legislation that could help ease the relationship between Connecticut’s immigrant communities and local law enforcement is making its way through the State Capitol.
The State House unanimously passed the aptly named Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act on Thursday, which will now move on to the Senate. The act would make it so local governments would only have to detain an individual at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) request if that person had a “serious or violent felony conviction.”
The act is in response to the federal Secure Communities program, which according to Ana Maria Rivera, legal and policy analyst for JUNTA for Progressive Action, “undermines the trust that has been built between law enforcement and the immigrant community.”
JUNTA is an affiliate of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA), which has advocated for the TRUST Act as a way to make up for the “flawed interpretation” of the Secure Communities program, which was originally crafted to keep neighborhoods safe from convicted detainees.
That trust between immigrants and law enforcement officials often hangs on a delicate thread. According to a research by PolicyLink, a recent study surveying 2,004 Latinos in four U.S. counties revealed that many of them avoid involving themselves with their local police departments since the Secure Communities program has been implemented.
Data showed that 44 percent and 45 percent, respectively, said they were less likely to contact police despite being the victim of a crime and would be less likely to to volunteer information about a crime for fear of themselves or someone they knew being asked about their immigration status.
Forty-three percent responded that they felt local law enforcement is more concerned with immigration enforcement, which made them feel unsafe. Lastly, 38 percent said they were afraid to leave their homes because of feeling unsafe.
Advocates of the TRUST Act say the issue with the federal program is that there is no uniform standard in Connecticut. Because of that, local governments around the state responds to ICE detainer requests differently.
“The question of jurisdictional interpretation of the program has lacked a clear and consistent answer from ICE before Congress, the media and local officials,” a release from CIRA read. “The confusion has resulted in a contradictory implementation, many times unjust to law-abiding immigrants.”
Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden), stressed the importance of “fair and equal ” policies, and the need for consistency throughout the state’s law enforcement. The bill’s passage signifies the “overwhelming belief that [immigrants] deserve better.”
Kurt Westby, Vice President and Connecticut state director of 32BJ SEIU, a CIRA affiliate and property service workers union, said in the release, “State and local law enforcement resources need not be misspent on federal immigration enforcement activities that target working people and undermine community relations. We are doing everything we can to pass commonsense immigration reform on the national level, but in the meantime, entire communities are suffering when immigrants are arbitrarily swept into detention and deportation proceedings.”
All these problems, Westby said, can be fixed with the TRUST Act.